Rosa was born on 4 February 1913 in the town of Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mother, a schoolteacher, instilled in her values of equality and freedom and sent her to the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, founded by white northerners for black children in Montgomery, the former capital of the Confederate States. The school was burned down several times by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
At 19, she married Raymond Parks, a civil rights activist and chapter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Alabama, and graduated from high school two years later - a rare occurrence for blacks at the time, and even more so for black women. Her level of education was not enough to make people forget her skin colour, and the young woman could only work in manual occupations: seamstress, cleaner or caretaker. From 1943 onwards, she was active in the NAACP, a supporter of desegregation, where she worked as a secretary.
On 2 March 1955, she committed the act of civil disobedience that made her a part of history: on her way home after a day's work, she sat in the section of the bus reserved for whites and refused to move when the driver asked her to move. Outraged, the driver called the police, and the story ended up in court. Rosa Parks became a symbol of rebellion.
Charged with disorderly conduct and failure to comply with local segregation laws, Rosa Parks faced imprisonment. Her white lawyer, Clifford Durr, turned his client's defence into an anti-segregation manifesto. At the same time, a group of African-American activists gathered around a young, then unknown pastor: Martin Luther King. Together, they set up a movement of civil disobedience and decided to boycott the Montgomery buses. The boycott lasted 381 days.
The movement initiated by Parks, Nixon and King had a national impact and reopened the debate on segregation. Under pressure from civil rights activists, the Supreme Court overturned bus segregation on 13 November 1956. But it was not until almost a decade later, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that Jim Crow laws were repealed, ending segregation.
And Rosa Parks? She went back to work as a seamstress, then joined the political team of Michigan's Democratic representative, the African-American John Conyers. Still a civil rights icon, she died in Detroit in poverty in 2005. She received a state funeral and tributes from President George W. Bush, who ordered all federal flags to be flown at half mast on the day of her funeral.